Government to crack down on 'text scam misery' under fresh anti-fraud plan

3 May 2023, 06:49

There is going to be a crackdown on phone scams
There is going to be a crackdown on phone scams. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has pledged to stop "text scam misery" under the government's new plan to fight back against fraud.

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The strategy, which will be set out in parliament on Wednesday, will include banning cold calls on all financial products, such as those relating to insurance or sham cryptocurrency schemes.

The government also plans to work with Ofcom to use new technology to further clamp down on number "spoofing", so fraudsters cannot impersonate legitimate UK phone numbers.

And banks will be allowed to delay payments from being processed for longer to allow for suspect payments to be investigated.

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The Government said it will also ban other devices or methods commonly harnessed by scammers to reach thousands of people at once - such as so-called "sim farms" and review the use of mass texting services to keep these technologies out of the hands of criminals.

Sim farms are devices that can be loaded with hundreds of sim cards and are controlled from a computer. Fraudsters use them to send thousands of scam texts at once.

To make it easier for victims to report fraud and rebuild confidence that cases are being dealt with properly, a new system, replacing the current Action Fraud service, the UK's fraud reporting centre, will be up and running within the year, the Government added.

Braverman vowed to end 'text scam misery'
Braverman vowed to end 'text scam misery'. Picture: Alamy

Writing in the Telegraph, Home Secretary Suella Braverman pledged to "stop the text scam misery".

She added: "Our action needs to be bold and firm, but prevention is as important as any cure. That's why there must be an increased effort to block fraud at source."

Ms Braverman said fraud accounts for 41% of all crime across England and Wales and more than 3.7 million offences were reported last year - costing nearly £7 billion.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Scammers ruin lives in seconds, deceiving people in the most despicable ways in order to line their pockets.

"We will take the fight to these fraudsters, wherever they try to hide.

"By blocking scams at the source, boosting protections for people and bolstering enforcement, we will stop more of these cold-hearted crimes from happening in the first place and make sure justice is done."

The Home Office said that while law enforcement is devolved, measures agreed with industry will have a UK-wide benefit.

Anthony Browne MP
Anthony Browne MP. Picture: UK Parliament

Following the announcement, a new anti-fraud champion, Anthony Browne MP, has been appointed.

Mr Browne said: "The tech sector, phone companies and financial services firms must take responsibility for protecting their users by stopping fraud happening in the first place, and work together to design out fraud.

"We can use the technologies fraudsters are exploiting against them to stop them in their tracks, and I will work with industry to make sure that happens."

The Government said it is working with tech companies to make it as simple as possible to report fraud online, whether it be scam adverts or bogus "celebrity endorsements".

But shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, argued that it was "too little, too late".

"This plan is too little, too late and fails to match the scale of the problem," she said.

"All the Home Secretary has delivered is a rebadging of existing national teams, and a re-announcement on the replacement of Action Fraud from almost two years ago."

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